UK death dealers Vacuous land heavy hits on your psyche with mangling ‘Dreams of Dysphoria’

The arrival of autumn and the darker cooler days allows me to whip out this old chestnut: Death metal sounds perfect during this season. Things are decaying from summer, the trees soon will be reduced to their skeletal selves, and the sun will be dragged over the horizon for shorter and shorter periods, activating seasonal depression for tons of people. Death metal, we summon thee.

So, it’s perfect time to take a trip with “Dreams of Dysphoria,” the debut full-length from UK death dealers Vacuous, who spread their darkness over seven deadly tracks that almost demand temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit in order to fully congeal. The band—vocalist Jo Chen, guitarists Michael Brodsky and Ezra Harkin, bassist Damiano S., drummer Max Southall—mix doom and misery into their recipe, making what they do that much more flooded with misery. But they also punish you and drag you over the coals, making you feel every bit of the punishment they had planned.

“Devotion” dawns amid darkness, the doomy tides dripping and dragging, growls hissed as the band chugs and mashes your bones. The playing tears limbs apart as vicious growls multiply, the heat hypnotizes, and the guitars send fog that rest finally in the throes of torture. “Body of Punishment” ignites right away, going for your guts and rolling in misery as the speed and intensity become a bigger factor. The pace slows and simmers, wilting your flesh as the tempo slowly batters back to life, the shrieks crushing over a blistering finish. “Matriarchal Blood” sludges as vicious growls add pressure to your bruised chest, and then the drumming decimates, sending shrapnel and bone flying. The pace is relentless as the band blisters with power, the death march strangles, and the final moments make sure to stick claws in already festering wounds.

“Paranoia Rites” slithers into the picture, unloading and riding a developing storm that promises danger, the growls menacing and building. Humidity gets thicker and then the excess moisture wells and becomes hard to tread, whispers roll in and haunt, and then the track ignites, crushing and scorching into “Stigmata Scourge” that completely unloads. Vocals belch as the tempo increases and seems to be barreling out of control, leaning into slurry riffs and engorged growls that head mercilessly into an endless nightmare. “Lucid (Interlude)” slowly melts and trickles, eerie visions haunt your mind, and the back end drones in paranoia, heading into closer “Dreams of Dysphoria” that boils in doomy cauldrons. The vocals carve and gurgle as if choking on blood, melodic fire jolts in your veins, and the guitars glimmer, making the temperature difficult to handle. That chars your flesh, makes your eyes water, and drains out into disorienting, cleaner streams.

“Dreams of Dysphoria” is a scarring, psychologically haunting record, the perfect full-length introduction for Vacuous and an album that’ll haut you long after it’s over. This is dark and foreboding, death metal that’s promises more scars for your mind than actual bodily harm, which is honestly scarier. The emotions and terrors are heavy and unavoidable, and you can only hope to escape with your mental well-being not completely ground to bits.

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